The Fire Reborn
This is the first book in my trilogy, Wildfire. This story takes place long after The Omen of the Stars. Hope you like it! >':'<
PS: This series is a sequel to The Hunted Series
So I'm finally getting going here .. sorry it has taken so long. Lava X Inferna Two cats on fire 22:16, January 11, 2015 (UTC)
'Six clans will always exist.'
That was what Rock saw reflected in the lake on that ancient prophetic dawn. Was he wrong? That's what many believed. After Firestars children's children had grown old and taken their places among the stars, the clans resolve faded. Training became a game, hunting like kits play, fighting was literally non-existent. The warrior code became worthless, just an antiquated document, to old to apply to this new age. Some cats began to doubt Starclan, and instead of being driven out or corrected, their ideas were simply tolerated. The clans had opened their paws to evil.
It was in this time of great prosperity, that a cat called Darkwinds became leader. He took the name Darkstar, but he did not receive nine lives, for he did not believe in Starclan. Darkstar had the forked tongue of a snake, the conniving mind of a fox, and the slipperiness of a fish under the pelt of a cat. He united the clans, providing them with food and entertainment. For most, this was a paradise, but for a few, it was like Dark Forrest itself. Those who fled were lucky, for those who spoke out against Darkstar disappeared, never to be seen again. Darkstar was named for the color of his pelt, but the name adequately described the color of his heart. He had trapped the clans in a life of ease and laziness, watching with satisfaction as they rotted from the inside out. After all, if there are no battles to fight, is a warrior really a warrior?
Then it happened. Some say it was an inside job, others say the magnitude of the enemy wiped the clans of their feet. Like ants on a piece of crowfood, Dark Forrest devoured what they thought to be the last source of light. In that one day, so much blood was shed, that the lake was turned red, and not by the setting sun. Those who died were the lucky ones, for those who lived either went mad, or they never slept well again. There was not one cat who did not loose a friend or family member on that tragic day.
The territories that had known such beauty and life, fell into a state of silence, broken only by the phantom like paws of Dark Forest. Maybe it was because of the fact StarClan hardly ever shone their light above the land any longer, or maybe it was because of the evil living there. Whatever the case, the once prey rich lands fell under a dark and gloomy cloud. Frozen under the spell of an evil presence, they waited silently for the promised fire that would rebuild the clans. The fire of justice, the fire of hope, the fire of a warrior.
But seasons pass, as seasons do, and no fire appeared. The clan territories grew duller and gloomier with every moon. The babbling streams grew sluggish, the sky grew gray, the trees dropped their leaves as if weeping for what was gone. So it happened that all cats who heard of this place of perpetual leafbare, simply referred to it as the haunted woods. Finally, the fire was born. One of the Starclan warriors raced across the night sky, bringing a message of hope. A cat called Ink saw it, and divined its meaning. It might take him a while, but he was determined to find this fire, and destroy it, so the last spark of hope would be gone forever . . .
The air was cool, foretelling the coming of leafbare. It whipped around the solitary figure of a cat. Her outline was faint, and a few glitters shimmered in her iridescent silver fur. She seemed frozen in time, fading just like the pitiful world around her. Weariness seemed to penetrate her entire being, spilling from her very soul.
Her voice was a tired sigh, that seemed to emit from the deepest corridors of her heart.
"Why did this happen?"
A shimmering, crystal tear dripped from one of her ice blue eyes, splashing silently to the ground.
"I tried so hard. Was all my work in vain?"
She shook her head.
"I was the only one who could still see the lake, and I saw her. The only hope. But what if I was wrong?"
The silver cats plaintive whisper was caught by the wind and whipped away, into the dying remnants of a what one was a mighty kingdom. Now it was fading into nothing, but all the same, it was the cats home. It was her world. It was all she had left.
Chapter 1 Ink in the Night
"What is it now Ink?" A Choco brown tom asked.
"Simply this Darkstar. The fire is reborn." The black tom answered.
A striped gray she-cat laughed, "That is no concern of ours Ink. StarClan is as good as dead, and the clans are extinct. We are the rulers now."
The dark brown tom snapped, "I know that Strongwings, but they could rise again. Unless .."
He looked thoughtful. "Unless I stopped them."
Strongwings was eager. "You're going to kill StarClan's Hope? Darkstar, you are the greatest villain of all time!"
Darkstar snorted. "Kill them? Don't be so old fashioned Strongwings. I have a much more modern plan."
Both Ink and Strongwings leaned forward. "What?"
Darkstar yawned. "Well, I'm thinking of something far more ... entertaining. Imagine it both of you. StarClan watching helplessly as their chosen turn evil, as evil as us. Then, using their power, we break Starclans defenses, and ..."
He left his evil plot unfinished.
Strongwings stared in admiration. "StarClan destroyed by their own power."
Darkstar nodded. "Indeed."
He caught Ink. "And you are going to help me. Listen .."
Chapter 2 Innocence
Flame yawned, stretching in her soft bed. She could have opened her eyes if she had wanted, but she didn't really want to. The warm morning sun sifted through one her twoleg nest's kitchen windows, shining a beautiful, dust mote filled ray across her fiery orange pelt.
Flame lazily opened one crystal blue eye as her twoleg laid a dish of milk in front of her. The young orange she-cat stretched, standing and walking to her dish. She lapped the smooth white milk up eagerly, relishing it's creaminess as it slid down her throat.
Her twoleg scratched her ears fondly, making it's strange sounds, which Flame knew to be affectionate. She rubbed her head against the friendly hand, purring loudly. Her twoleg gave her a few more minutes of attention, before standing up and walking further into the nest. Flame half considered following, but chose to head outside.
The she-cat padded softly across her garden, before leaping up on the fence. She was giving herself a good morning bath, when a cheery voice called,
Flame looked up, smiling at her next-door neighbor. "Hi Neko."
The small silvery blue tom blinked up at her, a wide smile on his face. "It's a beautiful day right?"
Flame yawned widely. Neko was always happy about everything. If it had been raining, he would have been glad the plants were getting watered. If it had been cloudy, he would have been glad the sun wasn't too hot. That was just part of Neko. Being cheerful was his lifestyle.
She nodded. "Right. And how are you? You're having a good day I expect?"
Neko grinned. "Of course! Since when did I have a bad day? I like being happy so much bad days don't effect me!"
Flame jumped of her fence into Neko's yard. The tom was older then her at twelve moons, she being ten moons. Yet he was about her size, and a good deal plumper. Neko was kind of like her big brother .. although he could act extremely immature when he wanted.
"So were are you going today? Doing something fun?"
Flame nodded. "I'm going to meet the others. We're meeting in Sugar's yard .. you want to come?"
Neko gave his soft silver tabby fur a lick. "Sure. I don't have anything to around here but be cheerful. I might as well be cheerful with the others!"
Flame jumped Sugar's fence, Neko following a little more clumsily.
Flame smiled at a creamy off-white she-cat with glittering yellow eyes sitting on her back step. "Hi Sugar!"
Sugar stretched sleepily. "Hi Flame .. Hi Neko."
Neko grinned. "Morning Sugar! It's a beautiful day!"
In contrast to Neko, Sugar was a bit of a naysayer. She shrugged. "It's alright I guess .. it could be a lot worse after all. Where are the others?"
Flame shrugged as a black tom with a white underbelly and navy blue eyes leapt over the fence, followed by a pewter gray tom with green eyes. The black and white cat skidded to a halt, purposely allowing the gray one to slam into him.
The gray cat shook himself griping, "Awwww, Penguin why'd you do that?"
Penguin grinned mischievously. "So I could get you back for waking me up Smoke! What else?"
Flame sighed. "So I see Smoke and Penguin have arrived."
She smiled at a yellow tom with gray eyes that slunk through a gap in the bottom of the fence. "Hello Harley."
Harley sat down, giving his fur a few nervous licks. Sugar stood up regally. She was the bossy one, the one that came up with most of the ideas for their little group of friends.
"I have decided we need to do something .. something really exciting."
Penguin nodded. "Oh yes! That would be great! Something better then raiding trashcans right?"
Sugar got a secretive look in her eyes. "Oh yes, much better. I have considered this for a long time, and I think we should do it."
Smoke was bursting with excitement. "Tell us, tell us!"
Sugar shot him a regal glance. "I think, we should explore the Haunted Woods!"
There was a moment of silence, before Penguin yowled, "Oh that's awesome! I can't wait! It'll be so cool and creepy and cool and .. CREEPY!"
Harley backed off a little. "Th .. the Haunted W .. woods? B .. but that's scary!"
Flame cocked her head at him, sighing, "It's an adventure Harley .. I want to .. I've always wanted to."
Harley gulped. "But .. do you guys think that's safe? You know the rumors about that place."
Sugar loved to tease Harley, and didn't plan on missing the opportunity now. "Oh you mean the rumors about the creepy ghosts of DarkClan, and how if you dare to enter their territory, you'll never, ever come back?"
Smoke adopted a low, groaning tone. "I am a ghost of DarkClan, and I will slay you!"
Flame, sitting behind Harley, couldn't resist. "Boo!"
The yellow tabby jumped, fur bristling. "Ahhhhh!"
He then realized he'd been tricked. "It's not funny you guys! Jase says .."
Penguin rolled his eyes. "That old tom's just off his rocker. I can't believe you'd buy into his crazy stories."
"Yea Harley, what are ya, a fraidy cat?" Smoke teased.
Harley shook his head. "No, I just think we should be careful."
Penguin purred. "Ahh come on Harley, Jase has just been filling you full. There's no such thing as a ghost, you know that."
Harley didn't look convinced, but he nodded. "I guess not."
Sugar sniffed. "Are we going to discus phantoms all day, or are we going to explore the haunted woods?"
Flame stood. "We're going. Neko? You can come too if you want."
Neko yawned, smiling cheerfully. "Na .. I might miss lunch. Then my twoleg would be worried. I'll see you when you get back. Stay safe, and most importantly, have fun!"
Chapter 3 Harmless Adventure
That was all Sugar could say, and for once, Flame agreed with her.
"There's a reason why it's called the Haunted Woods." Smoke observed.
Now that they were here, Flame almost had qualms about going in. This place outdid all it's descriptions. While it was Greenleaf everywhere else, these woods seemed to be frozen in Leafbare. The ground was swampy and dark, the trees were gnarled and twisted, their branches bare and ugly. Even the wind was cold.
"Hey this place is awesome! Cool huh?" Penguin exclaimed.
"Yea." Sugar meowed, almost half-heartedly.
Harley shivered. "Sure, it's neat. Real neat. Can we go home now?"
"Ahhh, Harley don't be a chicken! There's nothing to do at home!" Smoke complained.
Harley was suddenly full of ideas. "We could raid my twoleg's trashcans or hunt mice in Smoke's shed or climb the tree in Sugar's garden or dig up Penguin's pansy beds or how about begging Flame's twoleg for milk huh? She always gives us some!"
Flame was getting over her first shock. "Come on guys, if Harley wants to go home, then he can go home. I want to see more of this place."
As Flame set foot on the boggy ground, she realized something disturbing. Instead of slowly fading into marsh, the line between swamp and dry land was abrupt.
However, Flames curiosity overcame her fear, and she and her friends padded into the unknown, leaving behind all that was familiar.
Penguin frolicked about, chasing dry leaves everywhere.
"So you're not at all afraid of this place?" Harley asked.
"Nope!" Penguin stated as he slammed his paw down on a leaf. "Why would I be?"
Harley looked around and shivered.
"Is it 'the ghosts of DarkClan again?" Sugar teased.
Harley muttered something illegible. Penguin laid a comforting tail on his friend's shoulders. "Ghosts are for kits Harley, they don't exist."
Harley's eyes were wide. "But this place is! And it's just like the stories! What if they are true?"
Smoke was ahead of his friends. "Oh Harley, don't believe everything you hear. Darkclan doesn't exiiiii!"
Smoke's words were cut short as he disappeared with a howl!
"SMOKE!" Flame yowled, horrified.
For one terrible second no one answered, but then Smoke's voice rang out.
"I'm OK! I just fell down a stupid hole!" He paused. "Like a really, really big stupid hole."
Flame crept carefully toward the place she had last seen Smoke, and she suddenly understood his abrupt disappearance. "Hey guys, come look at this!"
Her friends cautiously came up behind her, to peer down a small cliff. Penguin sighed with relief to see his best friend staring up at him. "You all right pal?"
"Yea, I'm ok." Smoke purred. "But you should get down here Penguin, you'll like it."
"Ok." the black cat laughed. "But I'm not going down the way you did."
Flame had been studying the odd rock hollow Smoke had fallen into, and she suddenly realized what it was. "Why, it's not just a hole! It's a quarry!"
"Whoa Smoke, this place is completely awesome!" Penguin exclaimed.
"Well I don't think so." Harley whimpered, staring around.
Smoke playfully batted Penguin's ear. "Come on, catch me slowpaws!"
His black friend gave chase, laughing, "No fair!"
Smoke ran up a ledge, with Penguin close on his heels. There was only one place for him to go, a small cave in the rock wall. The gray cat scrambled into it, only to leap out a second later, and plow into Penguin. Both toms fell off the ledge, landing on a bush in an ungainly heap of fur.
Penguin shook himself. "Hey! What was that for?"
Smoke's eyes were wide. "There's something in there!"
Penguin sighed. "Don't tell me you're getting the jitters like Harley!"
Smoke clamped his tail over his friend's mouth and whispered a few things in his ear, before motioning in Harley's direction. The nervous tom was staring away from them, and Penguin slowly nodded.
Smoke leapt up. "Hey guys, let's keep exploring!"
Flame wasn't paying attention to them. She scraped some dust from a boulder, and gasped, "Look!"
Her friends crowded around her to see an insignia scratched on the rock, obviously by cat claws. It was a crude representation of a cat's head with a lighting bolt running through it.
Flame took a step backward, murmuring, "Lighting .. Thunder .."
She whirled around. "You guys, follow me!"
Chapter 4 Discovery
Flame didn't know exactly where she was running or why, all she knew was she had to. All of a sudden she skidded to a stop, and Smoke cannoned into her.
"Oh look! Isn't it beautiful?" Sugar exclaimed.
There, nestled in brambles and fungi, lay a hollow forgotten by time. At it's bottom was a crystal pool, that seemed to defy the Leafbare that clung to it's surroundings. Flame felt drawn to the pool for some strange reason as a surprisingly warm breeze danced around her. She could almost hear spectral voices in it, like sighing echoes of a forgotten world.
Suddenly a very real, and very frantic voice hissed, "What are you doing you fools? Get down!"
The five cats whirled around to see a slim she-cat staring at them. Her cream fur was frosted with silver tips, and her eyes were icy blue, and desperate.
"Get off that ridge, you're in plain sight!"
She wheeled around franticly. "They're coming! Hurry, follow me!"
Flame found herself running after the silver frosted she-cat, even though she wasn't sure what they were fleeing from. The cat pelted through the dried bracken like a mad beast, desperation in her every movement. Flame felt her heart beat faster as she saw how frantic the new cat was.
All of a sudden, the cat ducked into the half-hidden entrance of a tunnel. Flame didn't hesitate as she followed, accompanied by her friends. The silver-white cat threw herself to the tunnel's floor, panting heavily. Her voice was strained as she meowed,
"Don't .. worry .. they can't come here .. just stay silent!"
Sugar opened her mouth to protest, but Flame flicked her fluffy orange tail into the bossy she-cat's mouth, whispering,
"Listen to her! Be quiet!"
For what seemed to be eternity, there was no sound but quiet breathing. Finally the she-cat who had led them there stood up. Her voice was soft in the dim light.
"Come. It is safe now .. although you can not go out there again. But you may speak .. they have gone."
Flame blinked. "What .. what's your name?"
The she-cat shook herself. "Mint. Follow me, I will take you to a safe place."
Mint padded off into the darkness, and Flame followed her almost mechanically. Her friends nervously padded after her, not sure about the tunnel, but not sure they wanted to venture back out.
After what seemed an eternity of walking, the tunnel opened into a massive cavern, lit dimly by a crack in it's ceiling many, many tail lengths overhead. A river ran down it's center, lapping quietly across rocks and pebbles. Flame blinked in amazement as Mint meowed,
"Welcome to my home .. our home should I say. It isn't much, but it's safe from .. them."
Flame cocked her head. "Our home?"
Mint opened her mouth to say something, but a meow rang out as a yellow and white spotted she-cat pelted up to them.
"Mint! You had me worried ... don't go off by yourself like that! It's too dangerous!"
Mint purred. "I'm fine Butter. But it's a good thing I went out .. or these cats would be dead."
Butter flattened her ears. "If I'm guessing right, these are stupid kittypets. I bet they can't even hunt!"
"Butter, that is not kind. That is not their fault .. and we were kittypets once."
A bracken colored tabby tom with broad shoulders and white forepaws stepped out of the shadows. He shook out his flowing, long fur that made him look twice as large as he really was, as he surveyed the new cats, his gaze resting on Flame for a minute.
Flame felt her fur get hot for a minute, before she swished her long furred orange tail. "Who are you? and why are living down here?"
The long furred tom blinked. "My name is Hawk, and these are my sisters Mint and Butter. We live down here with our brother, Rain, and our friend, Rags. We cannot leave, or the shadow cats will kill us. Who are you?"
Flame blinked. "I am Flame, and these are my friends, Sugar, Harley, Penguin, and Smoke."
She looked around. "But .. who are the shadow cats?"
A flat voice echoed from the darkness as a white tom with brown forepaws stepping into the light. "They are pitiless and viscous; wicked shadows of the night. They have no mercy .. they want us all dead!"
The toms flat voice changed into a terrified whimper. "Hawk .. we have to get out of here! Please! They'll find us soon, I just know it ..."
Hawk laid his tail on the cat's shoulders. "Rain, calm down. It's ok .. they won't find us alright?"
Flame noticed the doubt in his voice as Rain, crouched fearfully beside his brother. "Hawk, they will .. you know they will. We'll be killed .. just like Flower ..."
Rain broke off and stared at the ground, shuddering fitfully. Hawk looked helplessly at Butter, who wrapped a tail around Rain's shoulders, leading him deeper into the cave.
Hawk sighed. "I'm sorry about Rain .. he's been like that since he saw the shadow cats kill our mother, Flower."
A soft voice echoed from the cave as a beautiful, black, white, and orange tortishell slipped from the shadows. "Is Rain ok? Who are these cats?"
Mint purred sadly. "Rain's ok as he'll ever be I'm afraid. And these are some cats who trespassed in the Shadow Lands."
The tortishell blinked a few times, before nodding. "So they will have to stay down here with us I suppose. I guess I'll introduce myself. I'm Rags."
Penguin's voice rang from behind Flame. "Rags? Why's your name Rags? You're so pretty!"
Sugar shot him a murderous glare as Rags blushed. Flame glowered at Penguin. "When will you learn not to say stupid things like that? It's rude!"
Rags interrupted shyly. "It's fine .. don't be hard on him. I'm sure he meant nothing, and he's not the first to ask me that."
She blinked her odd, lavender eyes a few times, stating, "I never knew my family .. I was raised by a twoleg and his family. His kits called me Rags .. although they never meant anything by it. They thought my pelt looked ragged with all it's spots I guess."
Flame turned to Hawk, whom she found still staring at her. This unnerved her somewhat, but she stated, "Hawk, tell me about the shadow cats .. I want to know about them."
He stared at her for a few more moments, before nodding. "Alright, but .. not here. Mint, Rags, please show our new friends around. Make sure they know where not to go .. we can't risk being found."
The long furred tom flicked his tail at Flame. "Follow me."
Flame did so as Hawk led her to the banks of the underground river. He sat down and curled his tail about his paws. "As you have heard before, we did not always live here. Once, we lived with some twolegs .. me and all my siblings. We were a lot younger .. maybe six moons. Our mother, Flower, still took care of us. One night, our twoleg nest caught on fire. I don't know what happened to the twolegs, but our mother got us out."
He looked down. "My father, Charcoal, wasn't so lucky."
For a moment, he said nothing. He finally continued. "We wandered around the twolegs place, and met Rags. She was lost, and younger then us. Flower took her in as a fifth kit, even though she was already burdened with us. One night, it was very foggy, and we lost all sense of direction. We ended up in here .. well you know, up there."
Hawk indicated the roof with his tail. "We didn't know what to do or where to go, and then we caught cat scents. Stale and weird .. distorted somehow. But they were still cat scents. So we followed them .. we were going to ask for directions."
He got a pained smirk on his face. "Boy, were we stupid. I should have known there was something wrong with those scents."
He lapsed into silence, and Flame dared to ask, "Well .. was there?"
Hawk's pale green eyes glittered. "Flame, I understand if you don't believe me, but those scents smelled dead. Dead, and at the same time, alive in a weird, frightening way. The cats we found .. should I say our mother found .. they were like shadows. Like things that aren't alive, yet aren't dead; things that aren't real, but are at the same time."
He looked down. "My mother tried to speak to them, and they killed her with out a second thought. We were hidden in a bush .. Rain never recovered from seeing that. In all honesty .. I don't think any of us really did either. We managed to find these caves .. and have hid down here for near seven moons."
He shrugged. "I'm only thirteen moons old .. if you can believe that."
Flame couldn't. Hawk was so dead serious .. so grown up and responsible.
Hawk shrugged. "Yea, I know. I missed out on growing up. First my father died, then my mother. I had to protect my siblings and care for them .. I was the eldest after all. I've hid my family down here all this time, silently observing the shadow cats. They let any in, and no one out. They enjoy killing outsiders .. you're lucky Mint found you in time."
Flame's crystal blue eyes widened. "You mean we can't .. go home?"
Hawk shook his head. "I'm sorry Flame .. they'll kill you if you try."
He stood. "Come on. Let's go find the others."
Chapter 5 Dreaming Tonight